Coffee is good for me (and you)

A number of people on Twitter excitedly mentioned the Boston Globe summary article on coffee, Good to the Last Drop by Judy Foreman, their regular Health Sense columnist.  It summarizes a boatload of recent studies that, taken together, suggest that coffee is good for you.  Even decaffeinated, in some cases.

The heavenly brew, once deemed harmful to health, is turning out to be, if not quite a health food, at least a low-risk drink, and in many ways a beneficial one. It could protect against diabetes, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's disease.

Just what I need to justify my regular (probably excessive) coffee intake.

The article does attempt some balance with caveats about the impacts of caffeine alone and the many other substances in coffee that have (or may have) the opposite effect to caffeine.  And they point out that the recent studies were observational and point to correlations, not causation.  In other words, the studies don't claim coffee makes you healthy - they just say that there appears to be a correlation between coffee intake and better outcomes on these health issues.

Some of the findings:

  • Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes (summary of 20 studies): Some coffee components help in some blood sugar-related processes.
  • No additional risk for heart disease and stroke (83,000 women over 24 years).  Small chance that there is a benefit.
  • No benefit (or harm) for other cardiovascular disease - up to six cups a day.
  • Lower risk of liver cancer.  Potentially lower colon cancer risk.
  • Potential benefit for alcoholics who drink coffee: protection against cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Much lower risk of Parkinson's disease.  Caffeine provides benefit, particularly in men.  It helps women who don't use post-menopausal hormones.
  • Athletic boost.  Again from caffeine.

And that yummy unfiltered coffee from Greece or Turkey or your French press?  (What about espresso?)  The article mentions that paper-filtered contains less cafestol, a compound associated with increasing bad cholesterol levels.

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